Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently said she failed to understand why did the Indian government bring the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and its intention.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who fled their respective countries due to “religious persecution”.
Hasina during an interview with Gulf News in the UAE capital on Tuesday said: “Why this bill…I don’t understand.”
She also questioned: “Is it for election purpose?”
In India, the next general elections will be held in April or May.
Though the BJP-led NDA government introduced the bill in 2016 to provide Indian citizenship to the foreigners, including Hindu Bangladeshis, who came from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan due to religious persecution before December 31, 2014, Hasina said she never felt that the bill meant to blame Bangladesh for religious persecution of minorities in the country.
In the interview, the Bangladesh PM said: “I don’t think so. There is no such [religious persecution] in Bangladesh. Some incidents have happened. But we took immediate action.”
While stating that religious extremism and terrorism are a global problem, Hasina added: “It is not in Bangladesh alone.”
According to her, people in India are also not happy with the bill.
It may be mentioned that most of the organisations and governments of the northeastern states, including states ruled by BJP and their allies, continued massive protests against the bill before it lapsed on the last day of the last session Rajya Sabha as they feel that if the bill becomes an Act, the culture, language and rights of the ethnic communities of the region will be in trouble.
The people and organisations who have been fighting against the Citizenship Bill argue that if the Bill becomes a law, it will nullify the the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being updated in Assam under direct supervision of the Supreme Court and the Assam Accord.
NRC is a national register to identify illegal foreigners, who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, which is the cut-off year for foreigners as per the Assam Accord.
Bangladesh PM Hasina, who also thinks that there will be tension if the bill becomes an Act, said: “I think they [India] should not do anything that create tension.”
Stating that earlier untoward incidents such as bomb blasts took place in Assam and other areas of the northeastern states of India bordering Bangladesh], she said such incidents “do not occur anymore” as her government had taken strict action against Indian separatists operating from Bangladesh.
She said India “should consider all these factors as a neighbouring country”.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, if becomes an Act, will enable illegal immigrants of Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to get Indian citizenship.
They will be eligible for Indian citizenship after 7 years of living in India instead of 12 years (as per the existing law), even if they do not have any documents.
The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019, but it could not be introduced and passed in Rajya Sabha as the Upper House was adjourned sine die on the last day of the last Session.